The myth and majesty of Russia comes to Huddersfield Town Hall for the penultimate concert in the current Kirklees Concert Season on Sunday 24 February, when the Orchestra of Opera North is joined by pianist Boris Giltburg and conductor Antony Hermus in a programme of Lyadov, Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev.
At the heart of the concert, the instantly recognisable, sweeping opening theme from Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1 has cropped up everywhere from a Monty Python sketch, performed by “Sviatoslav Richter” as he escapes from a padlocked sack, to the introduction of Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre on the Air, and more recently the 2014 Winter Olympics. Making his Kirklees debut, the award-winning Moscow-born, Israeli pianist Boris Giltburg calls it “one of Tchaikovsky’s most beautiful melodies ever”.
The interplay between soloist and orchestra in the middle movement is a test for the most virtuoso pianist, and the concluding section weaves together a fast “Cossack dance” with a more romantic melody on the strings.
The concert begins with an eerie flavour as the spirit of Kikimora, a tiny, evil fairy from Russian folklore, is conjured by an atmospheric “tone poem” by a member of the circle around Tchaikovsky, Anatoly Lyadov. Lyadov often looked to the rich, strange world of Russian folklore for inspiration, saying: “Art is a figment, a fairy tale, a phantom. Give me a fairy tale, a dragon, a water sprite, a wood demon – give me something that is unreal, and I am happy.”
Concluding the programme is a stunning hymn to “the free and happy man – his strength, his generosity and the purity of his soul” by Lyadov’s most distinguished pupil, Sergei Prokofiev. Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony was written in just a month in 1944, as the Second World War had turned in the Allies’ favour, and the composer had found stability and happiness in his home life. It is an epic work that embraces humanity in its widest sense, from the heroic opening, through humour and tragedy to a climactic blaze of brass and string flurries – even managing to cram in quotations from his beloved ballets Cinderella and Romeo and Juliet along the way.
Also making his Kirklees debut, Dutch conductor Antony Hermus returns to the Orchestra of North following a triumphant operatic partnership for Puccini’s Tosca last year.
Tickets for Russian Spirits at Huddersfield Town Hall on Sunday 24 February are priced from £13.00 – £27.00. Anyone aged 16 and under can see the concert for just £1.00, and tickets for 17 to 29-year-olds are priced at £4.00. To book, follow the link or contact Box Office on 01484 225755.